Words from a Waldman: My Ten Favorite Screamo Albums

I apologize in advance for leaving your favorite screamo album out, but this one was tough for many reasons. Two weeks ago, I wrote a piece for Substream on pop punk that was quite divisive, and I honestly feel that the word “emo” is much more polarizing of a genre/personal description. Add the sub genre “screamo” to the equation and I am setting myself up for even more yelling. Get it? Like actual screaming screaming? Is anyone here?

FYI: I love My Chemical Romance but they are not on this list. Sorry. They aren’t screamo. I still love/miss MCR.

Enjoy/cry/yell/be indifferent:

10. Story Of The Year – The Black Swan (2008)

It’s amazing/crazy that Story Of The Year released its best record AFTER being dropped from a major label. Whoops! Epitaph Records definitely lucked out/prospered from such! Produced by both John Feldmann and Michael “Elvis” Baskette, “The Black Swan” pulls no punches in the guitar riff department, showcasing some truly epic dual shreddable guitar work from both Ryan Phillips and Philip Sneed. If you get a chance, see this band live, as their acrobatics and overall stage presence is difficult to compete with.

9. Hawthorne Heights – If Only You Were Lonely (2006)

I’ll say this on record: “If Only You Were Lonely” still sounds so damn good. Sincerely. I had the chance to see Hawthorne Heights play this record in its entirety for a ten year anniversary show at So What? Music Festival in 2016, and I was impressed that every kid/adult in the room knew every lyric, air guitar part, and snare drum hit. In peak screamo form, the album also debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts. Holy shit. Producer David Bendeth truly killed it on “If Only You Were Lonely”. Sadly, this was the last HH release to feature the late guitarist/screamer Casey Calvert, so a listen in 2019 is extra bittersweet and haunting. Try it out.

8. Underoath – They’re Only Chasing Safety (2004)

This is not my favorite Underoath album (2008’s “Lost In The Sound Of Separation” is), but it is definitely what introduced them to the world. I couldn’t go a Fuse sitting last decade without watching the video for “Reinventing Your Exit,” and, as an agnostic Jew, I still championed and loved the shit out of this band. Underoathevolved its sound with each subsequent release, but “They’re Only Chasing Safety” was definitely my personal UO gateway drug, and has two other “hits”/live staples  (“It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door” and “A Boy Brushed In Red Living In Black and White”). On a happy note, I’m so glad that this band is back in action after a hiatus.

7. Thursday – Full Collapse (2001)

It would be a travesty to reference screamo bands and NOT name drop Thursday, but I’m sure that their “low” listing here may anger some people. Sorry. I still love this band so. Thursday definitely kickstarted the screamo/NJ basement boom of the early-00s, as this is the oldest release on the list, and they were also among the big three (with Thrice and Poison The Well) to sign major label deals. Geoff Rickly’s intellectual lyrics and the band’s unconventional guitar parts still make Thursday stand out in the sea of future imitators. FYI: The band’s follow up release “War All The Time” was also pretty damn good if I do say so myself.

6. Silverstein – A Shipwreck In The Sand (2009)

While ardent Silverstein and screamo fans may critique my inclusion of “A Shipwreck In The Sand” (the band’s last Victory Records studio album release) instead of “Discovering The Waterfront” on this list, I have these five words for you: This is a better album. Period. Shane and the band are in peak form on this album sonically, lyrically, and musically. Listen to “A Shipwreck In The Sand” front to back as it tells you quite a story.  The cool thing about Silverstein is that unlike a lot of other bands in this genre, they truly get better and better with each record.

5. Pierce The Veil – Collide With The Sky (2012)

This is the most recent album on the list. I don’t think that I listened to any album more than I did Pierce The Veil’s “Collide With The Sky” in 2012. I know it may cause fans of this genre to scoff at me, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve seen *NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, 5 Seconds of Summer, and Britney Spears live. NONE of these shows featured fans as loud as Pierce The Veil’s on this album’s tour at the Wiltern in Los Angeles. Not even close by a little bit. “Collide With The Sky” is extremely ambitious, catchy, and technical, and PTV certainly (and deservedly) took the screamo crown this decade.

4. Letter Kills – The Bridge (2004)

Now this addition may be the most controversial on this list as I NEVER (with the exception of John Oakes on his episode of idobi Radio’s Waldman’s Words) hear anyone talk about it. One of the better shows that I went to during the last decade was the Nintendo Fusion Tour in 2004 with Letter Kills opening, followed by My Chemical Romance (crazy, eh?) in the second spot, Lostprophets (featuring the now disgraced vocalist Ian Watkins) as direct support, and with the aforementioned Story of the Year as headliners. Do yourself a favor: Check this album out.

3. Thrice – The Artist In The Ambulance (2003)

Thrice’s major label debut showcases heroic and lightning fast guitar harmonies and truly impassioned lyrics/screams.  While the band would definitely evolve into post-hardcore’s version of Radiohead later on with subsequent releases, “The Artist In The Ambulance” definitely was one of the best examples of a solid major label screamo album. Like many others, I firmly believe that this record could have been as massive as the one listed next if the title track had been a single. Oh well. Things have definitely worked out since for Thrice.

2. The Used – The Used (2002)

This album launched screamo to the masses so the world definitely owes a debt of gratitude (or a major chiding) to The Used. Produced by Goldfinger’s John Feldmann, who is without question one of the godfathers of the genre (even producing two albums on this list), The Used’s self-titled debut juggernaut literally would cause singer Bert McCracken to bleed out of his throat on stage. His voice, Emo Nite, and Warped Tour would never ever be the same. Thank you, Utah.

1. Finch – What It Is To Burn (2002)

Drive-Thru Records and producer Mark Trombino didn’t strictly define pop-punk in the early-00s, and Finch’s debut full length proves just that while pulling no punches with the sweet clean and guttural screaming vocal prowess of Nate Barcalow. While “What It Is To Burn” isn’t this list’s best seller, it most certainly serves as the most listenable front to back record here. I don’t know anyone in the scene world who doesn’t have a special place in their heart for this album. I’ve seen Finch countless times live and they never disappoint. Plus, SHE BURNS.

And, that’s all folks. Check out a playlist featuring one song from each listed release here: